Blowing out the candles of a birthday cake would be an achievement for many octogenarians.
Roger Thomas is not like most people.
He celebrated his upcoming 82nd birthday with a bicycle ascent of Mount Washington. Fourteen kilometres, uphill at almost every turn.
Roger and his son, Tristan Thomas, completed the challenge on Aug. 3, with Roger’s wife Isabel providing hydration and a “mobile” cheering section, from a support vehicle.
“I’ve been doing this probably the last three or four years as part of my birthday celebrations, but I have been doing it (Mount Washington ascent) for I don’t know, maybe 30 years. My son has done it with me a number of times. He lives in New Zealand and manages to get over here at about this time every year, so he has done it with me quite a few times.”
“She’s always the support vehicle - and I couldn’t do it without her.”
As Roger has a few years on Tristan, they set up a staggered start to make for a closer finish, with Tristan giving Roger a 45-minute head-start.
“But, even (my) new Cannondale SuperSixEvo with Mt. Washington-specific gearing couldn’t keep Tristan at bay,” said the elder Thomas.
His time? One hour and 44 minutes and 20 seconds - four minutes longer than in 2022.
Thomas finished in 53:35, meaning he got to the top approximately six minutes before his dad. The official times were recorded by, and posted to Strava.com - a mobile app that records and stores cycling and running times.
“There was a time he (Tristan) was first in the world on that route up Mount Washington (among Strava users),” said Roger. “Now that he brought a new bike here for me (from New Zealand) that is Strava-friendly, I am on there too.”
Roger said he ranks third in his age group, although the top age group is 75-plus.
“You can’t clarify ages, so there is a possibility I am the oldest.”
Roger says he is slowing down somewhat.
He recalls earlier years when riding with the Comox Valley Cycle Club.
“A few hardy souls would, with little difficulty, make the ascent and descent, back-to-back, twice, in quick succession. Those days are a fond memory unlikely to be repeated,” he said.
He is still quite active on his bike.
“I usually do around 500-600 kilometres a month. It used to be about 1,000 but it has dropped off as I have got a little bit older.”
Asked about next year’s celebration ride, Roger said this may have been his swan song.
“I mentioned it to my wife, but she said ‘there won’t be a next time,’ so we will have to see,” he said, laughing. “Something tells me you have to listen to the wife. So we will wait until next year and we will see at that time.”